RGS session call for abstracts: Reading spaces of peace and conflict through public visual arts

Members of the newly founded International Consortium of Conflict Graffiti (ICCG) are seeking abstracts for a paper session proposal for the  Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) annual international conference in London, September 2020. Full session details below (or download a PDF copy here).

Royal Geographic Society (with IBG)
Annual International Conference

1 to 4 September 2020 at RGS-IBG, London

Paper session call for abstracts:
Reading spaces of peace and conflict through public visual arts

(Sponsored by the International Consortium of Conflict Graffiti – ICCG)

Nicosia, Cyprus, June 2019. Photo: Billy Haworth

Session organisers:
Dr Billy Tusker Haworth a, b, Dr Birte Vogel a, b, and Dr Eric Lepp a, c

a International Consortium of Conflict Graffiti (ICCG)
Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute, University of Manchester, UK
Conrad Grebel University College, University of Waterloo, Canada

Contact (email; Twitter):
billy.haworth@manchester.ac.uk; @BillyTusker
birte.vogel@manchester.ac.uk; @birtevogel_
eric.lepp@uwaterloo.ca; @Eric_Lepp

Session description:
Reading spaces of peace and conflict through public visual arts

This panel is interested in what we can learn from visual arts in conflict-affected societies. Street art and graffiti in particular represent a diverse range of artistic, social, cultural, and political practices in urban landscapes, whereby people publicly mark their different intentions with potential impacts on communities. Street art can be both a contributor to, and commentary on, contested spaces, and thus produces spatial realties in dynamic and temporal ways. It provides rich insight into societies, cultures, social issues, trends and political discourse, and spatial and territorial identities and claims. As both a contributor to and commentary on contested spaces, graffiti is particularly valuable in (post)conflict societies undergoing social and political transformation as it furthers knowledge of everyday peace and conflict practices, and contributes to our understanding of everyday experiences. Importantly, graffiti and public arts both shape and are shaped by the spaces in which they occur, which has particular pertinence to understanding conflict-affected societies at a local level.

We are interested in abstracts relating to relationships between graffiti, street art and other public visual arts and contested spaces and conflict-affected societies, all broadly conceived. We are particularly interested in papers that:

  • Engage with the questions of where and when public visual arts occur in conflict-affected societies;
  • Analyse the impacts of visual arts on shaping relationships between communities;
  • Analyse how citizens use public spaces for engaging with governments;
  • Deconstruct messages and meanings of street art in relation to space, peace and conflict;
  • Explore how art in public spaces is used to depict a range of social, economic and political issues;
  • Examine the political economy of public visual arts.

We consider both case studies from across the globe, in a broad range of contexts, and papers that engage with innovative methods for capturing, interpreting and analysing public visual art. We particularly welcome submissions from early career researchers and priority will be given to work that has not been published yet.

Session format: 15 minute presentation plus 5 minutes Q&A
Abstracts due to us:
Friday 31 January 2020
Abstract length:
150-200 words
Send abstracts to:


Something to be proud of: Menningarnótt, Reykjavík.

Harpa with Culture Night closing fireworks. Image - http://www.austurhofn.is
Harpa with Culture Night closing fireworks. Image – http://www.austurhofn.is

Menningarnótt or ‘culture night’ is an annual festival held in the capital of Iceland, Reykjavík. Created by the Reykjavík city council in 1996, Culture Night is held every August and focuses on all things cultural, from music and arts to food and traditions. It is estimated that around 100,000 people attend the event each year, which is a staggering number when you consider the total population of the whole of Iceland is only just over 300,000. The day starts with the running of the annual marathon, and slowly the streets fill with people enjoying local delights. There are several outdoor stages with live music playing well into the night, craft and art making on offer, Icelandic food samples, longer opening hours for museums and bars, and an exciting fireworks display to end the evening. In addition to the main music stages there are musicians playing all over the city. When you wander down the main commercial strip in Reykjavík, Laugavegur, you are confronted with a blissful blend of sights, sounds and smells. Things are happening everywhere. As you walk along, just as the sound of one musician fades away, you can already hear another around the corner. And away from the main strip it continues. At Culture Night in 2011 I found a musician friend of mine, Myrra Rós, playing down to the street from the balcony of her townhouse. I then joined her has she proceeded to also play down at the harbour, in a café, and in a book store, all in one afternoon! The talent is great, and if you’re lucky you may even catch some of the stars of the future.

Inside Harpa, Culture Night 2011. Image - Billy Haworth
Inside Harpa, Culture Night 2011. Image – Billy Haworth

But what is this event actually for, and why is it so popular? Iceland already has a day to celebrate its national day, a hugely popular gay pride event, and a world-famous music festival each year, Iceland Airwaves. What could Menningarnóttin possibly be offering that these other successful events do not?

Of Monsters and Men, 2011. Image - Billy Haworth
Of Monsters and Men, 2011. Image – Billy Haworth

For me, the answer is city pride. Culture Night is not just a group or organisers running events. It is a whole city involved and embracing their unique culture. Obviously tourism is a factor and many businesses may benefit with increased profits, but the vast majority of the events and activities are free! It feels much more like a festival run for Icelanders by Icelanders. They are proud of their culture, both their heritage and traditions, and their modern way of living and creative lifestyles. This day allows them to ‘show off’ a bit. It encourages a sense of community, of togetherness and prosperity, and highlights the vast diversity of what is happening in the city each year. Icelanders are particularly proud people, and why shouldn’t they be? While relatively small in size, Reykjavík is a beautiful modern city rich in cultural diversity, and I think a day to feel good about that is more than appropriate. I think it’s a fantastic initiative by the Reykjavík City Council and one I hope continues long into the future. I’m sure there are other examples of similar events in cities around the world, but I found Menningarnóttin a really unique experience. I’d like to see cities offer more cultural events like this for their people, even if just to be proud. If you know of anything similar going on in your city let us know!

This post originally appeared on urban culture and trends blog Trending City.

Laugavegur, Culture Night 2011. Image - Billy Haworth
Laugavegur, Culture Night 2011. Image – Billy Haworth